Released: October 2014
This may be a small book at just 169 pages, but what pages! This is a story that packs a punch, a clever and absorbing book. Niven Govinden’s All the Days and Nights starts when celebrated painter Anna realises John, her lover and muse, has walked out of their home, possibly for good. Through Anna’s narrative we learn that John has gone in search of the paintings he has sat for over the last fifty years, paintings that have made Anna renowned and highly respected across the art world but not, as we discover, in her local community.
The narrative which is offered alternately in the first and second person, but always in Anna’s voice, offers Anna’s perspective on life and a second hand account of John’s journey around the country. The second person narration gives the impression that the reader is being directly addressed and also that, through this narration, Anna has yet again taken charge of John’s life and his version of events. Whilst Anna alludes to the hard life John has lived working as a life model for her and as a labourer on the local farms, she seems insistent that her life has been harder.
As Anna’s narrative progresses we find out why she has always been so elusive in the local community and why she needed John and their housekeeper, Vishni, to provide a link with the outside world. Anna is not in herself a particularly endearing protagonist, she may be a proficient, outstanding artist but she comes across as selfish and a hard taskmaster, even though she is as hard on herself as she is on those around her, working interminably long hours, striving to get her paintings as perfect as possible. Despite these negative characteristics Anna is, nonetheless, a fascinating study. The way in which she lays bare their unconventional lives as she unpicks the paintings offering fresh perspectives on them is exquisite at times.
Despite this novel’s simple storyline, it’s very descriptive and makes for a really comprehensive and immersive read. It was difficult to concentrate on the text with any background noise so is probably best for a quiet weekend rather than filling time on the daily commute. It’s definitely worth spending some time with though.